Africa at the Center

Letter from the Editor


As we were about to go to press with this special edition on U.S. engagement with Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed out on an Africa tour. During his stop in Pretoria, he gave a major speech launching what is being billed as a new U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Tied to that, the White House released a new “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” Read more in the next FSJ.

And so this is a great time to hear from some of the best diplomat experts on Africa.

Mark Wentling, a retired USAID Senior Foreign Service officer who served in six African countries, offers his sobering perspective on Africa today in “Much Cause for Worry: A Clear-Eyed Look at Africa.”

Ambassador (ret.) Tibor Nagy, who served in Africa for 22 years at eight posts and as assistant secretary of State for Africa from 2018 to 2021, takes a more optimistic, though still realistic, view in “A Brighter Future for Africa?

Vice President for the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Kendra Gaither, a former FSO, looks to the future and makes the case for the U.S. to engage with Africa as a strategic and economic priority.

U.S. Navy Commander Jonathan Ahlstrom, writing from the USS Columbus nuclear submarine, argues in “Higher Education and the New Scramble for Africa” that the U.S. should invest in education for Africans as a vital component of our engagement.

In a fascinating look back, FSO (ret.) Gregory Garland recounts how two American politicians were first to prioritize relations with Africa in “Kennedy, Nixon and the Competition for Mr. Africa, 1952-1960.”

In the Feature, “Helping Refugees in Poland,” FS family member Lilia Lally describes her experience helping Ukrainians forced to flee home. And in FS Heritage, FSO (ret.) Luciano Mangiafico tells the curious story of “The Short Diplomatic Career of Mordecai Manuel Noah.”

In “Retirement Planning: A Mid-Career Checklist,” AFSA Retiree Vice President John Naland, a former director of State’s Retirement Office, offers great advice on how to ensure a comfortable life after the Foreign Service.

The Local Lens is a glimpse of busy times in North Sulawesi from Embassy Jakarta’s senior commercial officer, Paul Taylor. If you’d like to see a favorite recent photo of yours travel the world on the Journal’s pages, please submit it to

In the Speaking Out, USAID FSO (ret.) José Garzón looks back at his long career of democracy promotion and asks some tough questions in “Democracy as a Vocation.” And grown-up Foreign Service kid Louisa Rogers offers a relatable Reflection on “The Lure of the ‘Painful Childhood.’

In his President’s Views column, Ambassador Eric Rubin welcomes Director General Marcia Bernicat and presents a list of priorities AFSA hopes to engage with her team on to strengthen the Foreign Service.

AFSA News this month is jam-packed with association happenings, including the 2022 merit scholarship award winners, a Diplomats at Work event with a Foreign Commercial Service officer, a screening of “The Lavender Scare,” the chiefs-of-mission breakfast, an event honoring Archer Blood (and dissent), State VP Tom Yazdgerdi on family member employment, plus columns from AFSA’s USAID and FAS vice presidents, along with welcomes for new Governing Board and Editorial Board members, plus two new staff members.

The October edition will include perspectives on Ukraine from Ambassadors (ret.) Bill Taylor and Rose Gottemoeller, and others, as well as a requested article from the Board of Examiners (BEX) to explain the changes to the Foreign Service exam and assessment process. We look forward to shining light on what’s felt like a mysterious process to many, including AFSA.

In closing, I offer news from the grammar front. After much debate during recent FSJ style guide updating, we decided to adopt the serial, or “Oxford,” comma, starting with the October edition. For those who don’t care, just know that this is a highly emotional topic for those who do.

Please be in touch with responses to articles and other submissions (Local Lens, Off-Road with the Foreign Service, Speaking Out, Feature, FS Know-How, Reflections). Write to us at

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.